Half seconds can bring instant glory, or infamy, wreak absolute chaos, or encompass a life changing decision. All in the blink of an eye.
A half second was all it took for two cars to collide on a country road in South Georgia, on Good Friday, 2004. A half second either way, and they pass like ships in the night. Instead, Ridley Barron stirs back to consciousness moments, or minutes later, pinned in his seat and with broken bones, to hear his wife Sarah Ellen groan, exhaling her final breath beside him, and to realize his youngest child is no longer in the crumpled minivan. His life is forever altered.
Rescuers find Josh 30 yards away, still in his car seat. He is airlifted to a regional hospital which is better equipped to guide his recovery. But only days later, a pharmaceutical error in another brutal half second takes Josh's life as well. Ridley makes it to Josh's bedside, but only in time to agree to end the treatment that is keeping his son alive.
I count myself very fortunate to have heard Ridley's story first hand, when he visited our church a few weeks ago and have also since read his book, "Twist of Faith". It's a tragic, disturbing, lesson on the fragility of life and slim handle of control that we attempt to exercise on it. With courageous openness, Ridley retells the week of the accident, and walks through the process of his family's recovery over the ensuing months and years. It's a story no-one wants to be in.
One of the most pivotal moments occurs in that very first week after the accident and immediately after Josh's death. Ridley makes a stunning choice, a decision which cuts clear across the grain of our culture, and against the core of human nature itself. He decides to forgive. The decision does not bring his loved ones back, does not make anything easier, does not prevent bouts of depression, anger, or resentfulness, but it does provide something vital: freedom. He explains that if revenge is a dish best served cold, bitterness is a deadly poison that you drink alone. In a nutshell, Ridley's story is one of forgiveness, and of the faith that enables you to forgive in the midst of torment. The power in that decision is evident in his life, and brings to mind others who have similarly dealt with tragedy, such as Darrell Scott.
Ridley's story goes on to describe returning to the hospital where Josh died, to speak on hospital error from the victims perspective, and later, a watershed phone call with the pharmacist who dispensed an adult dose of the anti-seizure drug that arrested his young son's heart. Over time he remarries, and together with Lisa, transitions to a full time ministry to the medical industry, while tackling the complicated process of integrating, or "swirling", families. Those wishing to learn more can track Ridley's and Lisa's ministry website and blogs. I can highly recommend "Twist of Faith" for those suffering close loss, medical error, or are in the process of rebuilding shattered families. Ridley's presentation in person however, connects on an emotional level a book simply cannot match. He ends with a plea of warning and hope: It only takes a half second to make a decision, and half seconds count.